Disabled Peers and Student Performance: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from China

Bin Huang, Haiyang Lu, Rong Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper analyzes the academic peer influence of disabled students in the classroom, exploiting the random student–classroom assignment within middle schools in China. We show that the share of disabled students in a class has a significant negative impact on the academic achievement of their non-disabled classmates. This adverse influence remains largely stable over time when the classroom composition stays constant. We further find that the social spillovers of disabled students are attributable to their disability status rather than to their disability-correlated characteristics. An investigation into the mechanisms shows that disabled children lead to worsened learning environment and increased social interactions of their classmates with disruptive peers at school. There is no evidence that disabled children impair the learning efforts or the educational aspirations of non-disabled students in the same classroom.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102121
Number of pages11
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Academic performance
  • Disabled students
  • Peer impact
  • Random assignment


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